‘Brexit, Bricks & Mortar’: An Interview with Charles Gomez, Principal Barrister at Charles Gomez & Company
The property market has long been a pillar of the Gibraltar economy. With the arrival of Brexit, Gibraltar Property Insider explores possible consequences.
Lawyer Charles Gomez has been in the industry since 1982.
He has seen trends and developments at close hand and knows the patterns:
How will Brexit affect Bricks and Mortar?
Building construction reflects the health of the wider economy. In the last 3 decades the financial services sector, retail and the gaming have powered demand for residential and commercial space.
So, much will depend on how these economic motors fare.
There are still many building projects in the pipeline. Does this suggest market confidence?
It certainly does. Optimistic predictions have historically been proved right. There have been ups and downs but entrepreneurs and investors (and even speculators) have, in the main, done well here.
Small jurisdictions allow for flexibility and resilience. That is why places like Hong Kong, Monaco, Singapore and even Tangiers (which was once an “international zone”) have always enjoyed demand for real estate.
The fast-changing skyline at Devil’s Tower Road and Eurocity and Victoria Keys tell an incontrovertible story and it is a positive one.
You have raised a note of caution and warned against complacency.
Yes, our economic models are due an overhaul. Retailers everywhere are competing with internet sales and in Gibraltar they vie with the megastores like the Corte Inglés chain and La Cañada. The Gibraltar Federation of Small Business commissioned an excellent review by Kerching Retail which candidly urged the refreshing of shops in town.
The GFSB followed up with a Business Improvement District Initiative. In order to survive, the retail sector (like all others) must evolve. Customer care and innovation could do with improvement.
In other areas it is great to see that our people are working hard to bring in new technologies from Block Chain to smart business to our City. That is not just the future, it is the here and now and can guarantee continued commercial and residential property demand.
What is the quality of construction like these days?
Gibraltar is served by highly experienced engineers, architects and surveyors and the Building Control Department is very much on the ball. Most construction companies are efficient, so it is rare for cowboys to get a look in, but we have had a few issues with a small minority of the smaller developments.
When people buy a home or other property, they are entitled to expect quality and it is always disappointing when, what should be a happy occasion descends into a dispute. Our firm has an assertive litigation team, but buyers should not be exposed to unpleasantness.
And what of conveyancing practice?
The legal profession in Gibraltar works hard to deliver best service. Our Team at Charles Gomez & Co is young and very motivated. They work hard to give clients a trouble-free service at competitive rates. This is done through careful pre-planning of transactions, hard work, and collaboration with all our business partners plus clear, up front communication with clients.
We do not believe that transactions should ever fall through. There is always a solution and we aim to provide it every time. I suppose that is why so many people in the know, choose us.
Back to Brexit. What are the challenges?
Fluidity at the frontier is an issue; but regional interdependence suggests that the governments in London, Madrid, Gibraltar and the Campo will find solutions. For the private sector in Gibraltar quality in terms of our product and lifestyle is now more important than ever.
If we are going to continue attract investment, we have to remember that behind every investment there are people, whether they are entrepreneurs or high net worth folk or executive staff. All must feel happy to live and work here. I think that the Building Rules have to be tightened up to ensure quality of life.
A couple of recent building applications have spooked the market on account of their perceived insensitivity to the surroundings. Thankfully they were declined by the Planning Commission.
The government is aware that sustainability requires a high-level sympathy with the built environment. If we want to continue having golden eggs, we must ensure that the goose is not smothered!